Just read an interesting article in The Telegraph Education section with the above title. It reports on a group in the Harrogate area called French for Fidgets (a great name for the group!) that teaches French to toddlers through song and games. Taking kids as young as 18 months, their philosophy is –
“… to make it fun. When devising these classes, I asked myself what children this age enjoy doing and the answer was singing, eating and rolling around the floor. So that’s what we do. It just happens we speak French while we’re doing it.”
I’ve taught Kindergarten at a previous school and also had pupils as young as 18 months, so I can completely agree with and endorse the benefits of catching them early. In fact there were children with emergent speech who had as many words in Spanish as in English – and all that from 20 minutes first thing on a Monday! The analogy ‘little sponges’ is a very apt one.
And research backs this up – Professor Annette Karmiloff-Smith of the Birkbeck Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development in London is quoted in the article saying –
“Right from birth, the brain has the capacity to learn three or four different languages and in many countries that’s what happens,” she says. “In fact, the majority of children in the world are bilingual, either because their country has a number of borders or because their parents speak different languages.
“The typical pattern is for a child to learn one language from their father, one from their mother and another at school or in the street. As for brain capacity, I know children with Down’s syndrome who have three languages simultaneously. The truth is that languages shouldn’t be introduced at primary school, but at nursery school.”
And she concludes with a radical idea-
“Teach a language at nursery school and you won’t need to teach it at secondary,” she maintains. “By that time, the children will already be able to speak it.”